Skin Pigmentation Discoloration (Venous Insufficiency)

Individuals with chronic venous insufficiency may sometimes have pigmentation problems in their skin. This skin discoloration is also called venous stasis dermatitis and is caused by the pooling of blood due veins malfunctioning. Pigmentation issues are often accompanied by inflammation and itchiness and can lead to open leg ulcers if left unchecked. Getting treatment to manage your chronic venous insufficiency can help you keep this condition under control, and it can also treat and prevent any related skin pigmentation issues.

Causes of Pigmentation Due to Venous Insufficiency

Venous insufficiency with skin pigmentation discoloration has many causes and risk factors. These include:

  • Personal history of varicose veins
  • Family history of vein problems
  • Pregnancy (especially multiple pregnancies)
  • Other hormonal changes (such as menopause)
  • Obesity
  • Age (individuals over age 50 are at higher risk)
  • Gender (females are at higher risk)
  • Smoking
  • Deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the leg)
  • Personal history of blood clots
  • Lack of exercise
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart conditions such as congestive heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Frequent standing or sitting in place for extended periods of time

Symptoms of Skin Discoloration Due to Venous Insufficiency

Because chronic venous insufficiency means that the veins are not functioning properly, this condition causes blood to pool in the veins of the legs. It is not uncommon for this to result in skin pigmentation changes. Symptoms associated with skin discoloration due to venous insufficiency include:

  • Noticeable darkening of the skin (darker bronze, brown, yellow, or dark red)
  • Skin discoloration around the lower legs and ankles
  • Itchiness, sometimes very intense, in the affected area
  • Swelling around the ankles
  • A feeling of fatigue or heaviness in the legs when standing or walking
  • Pain in the lower legs or ankles
  • Skin textural changes, such as thickened or leathery skin around the ankles or shins
  • Open leg sores that crust, ooze, or appear scaly
  • Inflammation
  • Lymphedema
  • Cramping or spasming in the legs

Treatment for Skin Pigmentation Discoloration Due to Venous Insufficiency

Skin changes usually indicate a more serious case of venous insufficiency. Severe venous disease can lead to skin ulcers, deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots in the lungs, so it is extremely important to get care if you have noticed any pigmentation changes that may be due to venous insufficiency.

Varicose Veins

Treatment options include:

  • Conservative and At-Home Treatments

  • Vein Specialist Treatments

Conservative and At-Home Treatments

If you have skin discoloration due to chronic venous insufficiency, the following conservative and at-home treatments can help you manage your symptoms and prevent them from worsening. It is likely these will need to be life-long commitments and may need to be combined with other conservative, non-surgical, or even surgical vein treatments.

  • Leg Elevation: To stop blood from pooling in the legs, elevate your legs above the level of your heart while resting. Take time to do this for approximately 15 minutes every 2 hours. Elevation is especially important if you typically spend the workday sitting or standing.
  • Exercise and Weight Loss: Combining exercise with healthy dieting can improve blood flow and minimize other symptoms of venous insufficiency.
  • Leg Compression: Compression stockings can be very effective in reducing leg swelling due to venous insufficiency. When worn, the compression reduces pooling of excess fluids in the legs and helps prevent many associated symptoms, including discoloration and skin ulcers. Our vein specialists can help you get good leg compression stockings for your needs. 
  • Antibiotics or Dressings: Antibiotics and/or dressings may be necessary to treat skin infections or ulcers that accompany skin discoloration. Additional treatments for venous insufficiency will also be necessary to prevent recurrence. 
  • Medications: Medications to prevent blood clots and control pain, inflammation, and itching may be prescribed for those with venous stasis dermatitis. These may include topical or oral steroids and antihistamines. There are also medications (both topical and oral) that can help improve skin appearance and texture.
  • Skin Care: Damaged or itchy skin requires special care. Moisturizers, anti-itch creams, and anti-fungal creams may all be employed to treat and protect the legs. Avoid contact with products that irritate the skin, such as cleaning products, perfumes, plants, pet hair, and harsh towels and cleansers.

Our highly experienced staff can help you determine which treatments may be most effective for your specific situation.